In a key policy assurance supporting the country’s digital economy aspirations, President Muhammadu Buhari says that the government will provide the environment for 5G investors to succeed in Nigeria.
Buhari’s assurance contained in the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy comes as the telecoms regulator this week officially confirmed that Mafab Communications Limited and MTN Nigeria Plc, the two tech firms that won in the Nigerian 5G spectrum auctions, have fully paid their winning bid prices.
President Buhari, who says that major Nigerian cities will be the first beneficiaries of 5G service, assures investors that “we will continue to provide an enabling environment for their businesses to be very successful as we roll out this technology.”
The policy, envisioned to “accelerate the deployment of 5G networks for the citizens to benefit from digital services and applications that require instantaneous response and huge bandwidth, “will commence immediately to “cover major cities across the different geopolitical zones of the country, e.g. Abuja, Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna, Gombe, Anambra, and other states where the deployment is required and subsequently to other urban cities by 2025.”
President Buhari on Roadmap for 5G in Nigeria
Under the deployment plan, Buhari says, Nigeria “seeks to make 5G a major driver of our economy, a catalyst for smart cities in the country and a platform for the creation of jobs that support our digital economy.”
The benefits of 5G “are well known,” the President says, in “enhancing connectivity, improving healthcare, supporting education, fostering smart cities and boosting agriculture.”
Buhari, who says that 5G will support security institutions with real-time communications, explains that “our decision to roll-out the technology was not merely premised on these benefits, rather we ensure that the technology met the minimum standards of safety and security, among others.”
“In order to determine this,” the President says, “approval was given for 5G trials which commenced in November 2109,” in reference to the successful trials of the service by one of the spectrum auction winners, MTN Nigeria.
The President says that “following the trials, extensive stakeholder consultations were organised to determine the suitability of the technology for the Nigerian environment.
The President who says that NCC “must ensure the implementation of the National Policy and this is to be supervised by the Minister” wants all stakeholders to make the National Policy implementation “top priority for the overall benefit of the sector and our country.”
At the end of 2021, the Nigerian telecoms industry’s active phone lines peaked at 195,463,898, representing 102.40% of national teledensity; 141,971,560 active internet connections; and 78,041,883 broadband connections representing 40.88% of national teledensity, according to market information by NCC.
Meanwhile, NCC announced Thursday that MTN and Mafab, winners of the 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum licence have made their full payment of $273.6 million each for the 5G Spectrum licence to the telecoms regulator.
Professor Umar Danbatta, NCC Executive Vice Chairman says that MTN and Mafab have paid “just as the deadline set for the two winners of the spectrum auction elapsed.”
The three firms that bided, MTN Nigeria Plc, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd, entered with an initial bid deposit (IBD) of $19.74 million, representing 10% of the Reserve Price of the 3.5GHz Spectrum by the close of the Bid submission date of November 29, 2021.
Following the successful auction on December 13, 2021, and the emergence of MTN and Mafab as winners, they were required to pay the balance of the bid amount of $253.86 million on or before February 24, 2022, NCC says.
However, aside from the $273.6 million payment, Danbatta confirms MTN paid an additional $15.9 million, being the bidding sum it offered at the assignment stage of the spectrum auction to pick its preferred Lot 1 (3500-3600 Megahertz-MHz) in the 3.5Ghz spectrum; while, Mafab Communications, which bided lower at the assignment stage, consequentially settled with Lot 2 (3700-3800Mhz) at no extra cost.
“I wish to officially announce that NCC has received and confirmed payments from MTN and Mafab for their acquisition of 1 slot of 100Mhz each in the 3.5Ghz spectrum auction, which was successfully conducted by the Commission on December 13, 2021. They both met the deadline of February 24, 2022 as set by the Commission,” the NCC EVC says.
“Arising from this and on behalf of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Board and Management of the NCC, I wish to congratulate the MTN and Mafab for this feat, as we look forward to accomplishing other deployment timelines in the 5G deployment roadmap, as articulated in the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy,” Danbatta adds.
He explains that NCC published a Public Notice on its decision to award two lots of 100MHz Time Division Duplex (TDD) available in the 3.5 GHz band through an auction process, to support the delivery of ubiquitous broadband services for the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria.
Subsequently, Danbatta says, “an Information Memorandum (IM) was issued on November 10, 2021, in which Bid Applications for the available spectrum lots were invited. By the deadline for receipt of applications on November 29, 2021, the Commission received applications from three licensed telecommunications companies, namely: Airtel Networks Limited, Mafab Communications Limited, and MTN Communications Nigeria Plc.”
The Auction was held successfully on Monday, December 13, 2021, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja with the three bidders competing for the available two lots in which the Commission adopted the Ascending Clock Auction format that ended after Round 11, and proceeded to the Assignment Stage.
In the auction, MTN and Mafab emerged provisional licence winners and arising from this, the winning bid price for the auction was put at $273.6 million for each lot of 100 MHz TDD, according to Danbatta, while the provisional licence winners were then directed to pay the winning bid price less the intention-to-bid deposit by February 24, 2022.